ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece reopened primary schools and junior highs for in-person classes Monday for the first time in months, as the country eases coronavirus restrictions even as daily infections and deaths remain stubbornly high.
Greek courts also restarted many activities, with civil courts reopening to all cases and criminal courts now hearing cases involving defendants in custody and any cases reaching the statute of limitations next year.
Long lines developed outside the courthouse in the northern city of Thessaloniki as lawyers, witnesses, defendants and court staff arrived. Limits have been placed on the number of people inside each courtroom, forcing authorities to adapt.
Greece has been under coronavirus-related restrictions since early November, but has gradually begun easing the measures as it gears up for the vital summer tourist season. Restaurants, bars and cafes opened last week for outdoor service for the first time since November, while retail stores have also reopened on an appointment basis.
The gradual reopening comes despite new infections and COVID-19 deaths remaining high, straining Greece’s health system and putting intensive care units near capacity. The country of nearly 11 million people has seen over 11,000 deaths, and 60 new deaths were announced Monday.
Domestic travel between regions will restart at the end of this week, when museums will also reopen, while open-air movie theaters reopen next week.
“On May 14, an extremely important step will be taken, both for society and for the economy, with the opening of the tourism sector and the resumption of domestic regional travel,” government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni said Monday.
The tourism industry is a major revenue source for Greece, and the government is hoping international visitors will help bolster an economy still suffering after a decade-long financial crisis that saw the country’s gross domestic product shrink by a quarter.
All school grades are now open in Greece. Students and teachers are required to carry out home COVID-19 tests twice a week and upload the results to be allowed to attend classes in person. The tests are provided free of charge and the same requirement has been extended to workers in several sectors that have reopened.
Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki, Greece, and Srdjan Nedeljkovic and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed.